Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Chimpanzees in Entertainment

After my post for Endangered Species Day, which highlighted Chimpanzees in Entertainment, I had hoped to catch up on my Joint Zoo Meeting Updates, as the post after that was the start.  With Sad Zoo News at the end of last week, I just didn't get to follow-thru.  That said, while I prefer flow, I am going to jump back a bit and post a bit more on the plight of Chimpanzees.

If you are a regular follower of my blogs, you know that Our San Francisco Zoo Chimps are very dear to me.  I grew up visiting Cobby, Maggie, Minnie and our beloved passed Tallulah.  Many years back when I became endeared to the Zoo Animals as individuals, I did extensive research on every Zoo Friend that I could.  

In the Fall of 2013 I was contacted by a Filmmaker who had an interest in making a Documentary featuring Our Cobby, the Chimpanzee she grew up watching on a TV Show called Cobbys Hobbies which aired in her native Australia.  As the project took shape, I went from being happy that Cobbys story was being told, to being proud that this Film could do some good for Chimps everywhere who have been affected by and are still a victim of, the Exotic Pet Trade.

As mentioned in the previous post, I grew up watching a similar show, Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. Seeing Chimps on TV, in Film, in Advertising, was very common place in the 50s-70s.  While some of the views about using Chimps (and other Animals, especially Primates) changed in the following years, they didn't change completely.  The Exotic Pet Trade is still very much alive.

A few days ago I saw this video on youtube about the making of a series of Commercials for a London based Tea company.   

Knowing what I do now, its very uncomfortable to see.  We see a group of young Chimps, probably not much older than five years.  Where are their Mothers?  ... I was also bothered by the Vet referencing their lives not being boring because they are interacting with Humans!  Again Where is their Chimp Family?  Those are the Beings they are supposed to be interacting with!

Upon further investigation of this group of Chimps, I found this article from January of this year.  

Many viewers still don't realize that when they see these young Chimps, these are Beings who probably have no relationship with their Mothers or Family groups as they should.  I use the word probably because since these Chimps were "outsourced" from a Zoo, I can't say for certain that they were not returned to their Family Group.  In the case of Privately owned Chimps, they most likely do not have a Family Group, as Trainers do not keep Adult Chimps.

The article chronicles and examines (as a prelude to a UK TV showing of a Behind the Scenes Documentary) the History of the PG Tips (Tea) Chimps.  

I was bothered that the Woman behind the Chimps, Molly, was reported as having "taken in a few orphaned Chimps"   I don't believe there were true "orphaned" Chimps back in the 50s.  While I assume there has probably always been a Bushmeat issue, most of the Chimps taken from the wild back then were specifically to be sold as Pets and for Entertainment purposes.  I haven't been able to find a documented "start" date in regard to the Bushmeat Trade.  Today, this is an illegal and sadly thriving business, with young taken from their Mothers and/or their Mothers being killed, leaving the young orphaned.

Since at the time of this Video (90s), Molly the Woman who owned them,  had opened the Twycross Zoo, its not noted whether these babies were being bred there for this purpose or still being taken from the wild.

It was common place and not viewed as taboo in the 50s/60s, even into the 70s, but thankfully Molly who owned the Zoo seemed to embrace the feeling that pushing them to perform was not right.  It notes that she stopped using them at one point, but then this new Commercial was filmed in the 90s. There seems to be a bit of a conflict of info. ... It actually isn't clear whether the Chimps used in the 90s Commercial are part of the Twycross Zoo Group.  I'm assuming not, since those involved are American.  ... It also notes that she tried to release some back into the wild.  I have a really hard time hearing stories of releasing, which usually is of Animals that are threatened by poaching, so I don't get it at all.  Thankfully, there were survivors that were returned back to their home at the Zoo.  The one pictured looks very much like Our Minnie.  

On a closing note, this video does appear to show that these Chimps are not treated badly, which is in no way meant as a thumbs up to this practice, just an upside of sorts.  Sadly that's not true for all Owners of Animal Actors and other uses for Entertainment.  Hopefully the Documentary mentioned in this article (shown on UK TV) will show the tragic practice of using these Beings for any exploitative purpose is wrong.  

The Documentary about Our Cobby is nearing the final stages of production.  I hope that this Film will reach more than just the limited UK (?) audience of the PG Tips Film.  Its an important message to get out there.  Please check out this link to see the efforts that  Cobby: The Dark Side of Cute hope to achieve.  


  1. Incredible info on chimps in this blog. I can't wait for the documentary to come out. I am fortunate to live in the city and get to visit Cobby. He is awesome as well as Minnie and Maggie. I am hoping the word spreads of the plight of chimps. Keep on blogging.

  2. I am so glad that the documentary is being made! Such things give other animals a place within their history and ours. It raises consciousness.


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